MGA Wire Wheel Conversion

By Dave Headrick

I thought other members might be interested in the process of converting an MGA from stamped steel wheels to wire wheels. The car I drove to high school was a ’57 MGA with wire wheels so there was some nostalgic element to my interest in making this conversion. I had wanted to do this for some time when I became aware that Jack Lindler had a wire wheel rolling frame that he was willing to sell me to provide the necessary parts to start the process. Also Moss Motors was having a summer sale on wire wheels, so the time was right to get the ball rolling. I hauled the rolling frame back from Jack’s home in Greenville and stripped the frame down to the elements I needed, plus a few more good bits to squirrel away for later if needed.

Conversion on the front end was pretty straightforward. The splines on the wire wheel hubs from the donor car were in serviceable condition and simply needed to be swapped out with the stamped steel wheel hubs.  I went ahead and installed new wheel bearings and seals in the used hubs just for the peace of mind.

The most involved part of the swap was the rear axle which is different (shorter) for wire wheels than what I had in my car. You can’t buy it new so a donor is the only alternative, if you want to go original. There is a non-original alternative that uses bolt-on rear splined hubs attached to the longer stamped wheel axle. That option pushes the rear wheels outboard 7/8” on each side and could look a bit odd to some. All that was needed to get the donor axle ready for the swap was cleaning it up, painting and installing SPEEDI-SLEEVEs on the pitted seal areas on each end and the input pinion shaft.

Changing out the rear axle was a bit involved.  The two internally splined differential gears had to be changed out to mate with the rear axle shafts. I could have just used the differential assembly from the donor car but the one in my car was in much better condition so I disassembled the two differentials and swapped out the needed parts. New seals were installed on the pinion and axle shafts.

Obviously changing out the axle required swapping over my original drum brake assemblies to the wire wheel axle. The shorter axle also required a shorter hand brake cable. I took the opportunity to change out the rear brake lines while the axle was out.

When the new painted wire wheels arrived from Moss I was surprised to see that they were from Motor Wheel Service, a brand I had never heard of in spite of the fact that they had been a wheel specialist since 1927.  In any event, they looked like quality items so I loaded them in my truck along with my relatively new tires and motored up to Hendrix Wire Wheels in Greensboro, North Carolina. Bart Lehman had previously had his Healey wheels serviced there and recommended them highly. They not only mounted the tires but also trued each wheel and installed a proper wire wheel inner tube and then trued the wheel + tire assemblies.  Later in that week I went back up to retrieve the mounted tires.

My first test of the wheels was driving from Gilbert to the car show at the church on St Andrews road and it wasn’t a good experience. The car was wandering from side to side. If you were at the show you may have seen me tightening the knock offs in the hopes that I didn’t tighten them enough. It didn’t help, same problem going home. As it turned out I had failed to tighten the “U” bolts that secure the axle to the rear springs, a real rookie mistake. Anyway after correcting that problem the car now is stable with no noticeable vibration at road speed.

Next problem to address is overheating  at slow stop and go traffic which is common to MGAs. The MG guru website has several articles on this subject which I will refer to and consider.

1952 MGTD For Sale

20th Anniversary

20th. Anniversary Event-May 14th 2016
May 14th. 2016, t6he British Car Club Midlands Centre celebrated twenty (20) years of serving the British Car community. This was a time to reminisce and ponder the last twenty years since the launching of the Car Club at the Mid-Carolina Auto show on May 14th. 1996.
A group of MG enthusiasts jumped at the opportunity of displaying cars within 2,000 sf of floor space under cover. W3 were able to cobble together seven MG.s with hay bales to represent a paddock area, checkered flags, photographs, etc. to create our show stand. All this in two weeks.
This exposure led to the formation of the MG Car Club Midlands Centre which in time grew into the British Car Club Midlands Centre that as we know it today with the inclusion of all other popular British Marques.
Our event this past Saturday May 14th, 2016 drew fifty (50) members, family and their cars to the Paw-Paw Shelter at the beautiful Saluda Shoals Park on the bank of the Saluda River in Columbia for this commemorative event. We were lucky enough to have in attendance three of the founding members with three of the original MG’s from the 1996 Show.
Dinner was supplied by Hudson’s Catering of Lexington, arriving at precisely 5:00 as planned. A tasty meal of BBQ Pork, creamed potatoes, broccoli casserole, iced tea and rounded off with peach cobbler.
The usual chatter after the meal was interrupted with the presentation of Special Member name badges denoting their new name status to Founding Member to Chris Powell, Ed Stanfield and Ken Wells. At this point Chris explained to the assembled members how the Club was founded accompanied by comments from Ed and Ken. A slide Show was running concurrently with the proceedings highlighting events over the last two (2) decades.
The Club also had the unexpected attendance to the Shutler’s from Florida, who were on their way up to Michigan. They were involved in the transition of the Triumph Club of the Carolinas into the BCCMC.
Also of note, Special regalia commemorating the 20th. Anniversary logo was handed out and worn by club Members. Laurel wreath framing the existing badge really does look special.
7:00 pm saw the members packing it all up and leaving the Saluda Shoals park just as the shadows from the surrounding trees began to lengthen.
With good guidance The Car Club should be around for many decades to come.
Thanks to all the members who helped with the preparation and successful conclusion of this event.
Ken Wells.